US Open Cup semifinal postgame: Union 1-0 Fire

Photo and video: Daniel Studio

Mike and Kevin’s postgame wrap

Postgame interviews with Sebastien Le Toux, Richie Marquez, and Michael Lahoud

Jim Curtin’s postgame press conference

Philadelphia Union postgame quotes

Note: Questions have been paraphrased. Curtin’s postgame press conference transcribed by PSP. Other quotes provided by Philadelphia Union

Jim Curtin

Opening Statement

First off, I would like to thank the fans, especially in the River End. I thought they were excellent tonight, they were very loud. You know, you get into the 85th minute, and the guys are fatigued a bit, and you start to hear the “we want the cup chants,” I think it pushes them on. So, credit to all the fans that came out, I thought it was a great environment.

I thought our guys had a real professional performance on the night at home. Again, you have heard me ad nauseum about 1-0 games. We haven’t come up with a lot this year. It has been a frustrating year. We know that. And we know the moments that we come up short as a team, as a coaching staff, as the players, as well. But, for whatever reason, in this competition we show true grit, determination, and fight, and also quality in front of goal. You know, Seba’s finish is a good one. He’s had a heck of a run in this competition. He might be top goal scorer at this stage in the competition so, came up in the big spot for us. It is good to get the goal late and just have to hang on for a brief period of time because, obviously, protecting leads hasn’t been our strength this year.

But, it’s a night about the positives and getting to a final. Very happy with the group. We talked about it after the Seattle game last year that we had to get back to the final because there was unfinished business. And as cliché as it sounds, it’s amazing to get back. And every guy in there can look at each other in the eye and be happy, and knows what it means to not just talk about it but also actually do it. And we did it — and I couldn’t be prouder for our players because there’s been a lot of adversity this year, a lot of different injuries, and different things that have gone against us, but to stick together like a group, I am very proud of them. We played like men tonight.

Were you worried that you were controlling play for so long but hadn’t scored?

Yeah, always concerned. Especially in this building, we’ve had moments where we create a ton of chances and, you know, it just won’t go in for you: The ball bounces off the post, goes across the face of the goal, CJ’s there and he kind of hits it off the outside of the post; the one at the near post with him where he tries to flick it in behind his leg, you just think it may not be your night in terms of getting that goal. And then, Seba makes the play.

So, yeah, there was moments of nerves and feeling like we were in such good control of the game they were going to come down once because they had some athletes on the field, some real speed and guys that can run up top so, you know, they were obviously looking to counter us. I thought our guys dealt well with it, in particular, our back four was very strong on the night. And, that’s two zeroes in a row for the group so, very happy for the group.

But, yeah, there is always those moments where, in the games, you feel like you are under control, they break once and then get a flakey goal, especially in a game of consequence like this where you lose and you are done, it’s one mistake. So, it’s high pressure, there’re big moments, and our guys held up strong.

On the importance of the franchise winning the cup

It’s everything, you know, it’s why you play. It’s the hardest thing to do in our sport, to lift a trophy with a group of guys. I am telling you, it’s forever, you know what I mean? Again, you can look at each other and, while there’ll be roster turnover, and things will change for next season, you’ll always have that moment. It’s hard to teach the guys that have never won one, but in terms of for the club, for the fans, the fans deserve it, the club deserves it — it’s time. We were very close last year. Unfortunately, they put up on the MLS website the highlights of the Seattle game in some article that they wrote on us and I pressed play and watched that Pedro had a chance when the ball bounced to him, and then Vincent’s off the post — I shut it off after that. We were that close and, again, I believe that things happen for a reason. I don’t think we were ready last year. But there’s something in this group right here and this competition that I think we’re ready to take that next step. Come on Kansas City. [The Kansas City-Salt Lake game was still in progress at the time of the press conference.]

On CJ’s impact since he came back

He’s been excellent. You talk to any center back in the league, and I still have some old friends in there, and they hate playing against him. And that’s the best compliment you can get. He’s a pain in the butt to play against: He can jump out of the building, he holds the ball up, his feet are soft, he makes hard runs at the near post, he’s physical. When he goes up for head balls, he has a way of hitting you — in clean ways — but he’s just a pain in the butt to play against is the best way I can put it,and he’s done a great job for us. The amount of balls that he gets to, second balls that are just bouncing around where he preserves possession for us — things that go unnoticed — but he does a great job that lets us breathe a little bit and catch our breath. He’s been excellent.

On defense game plan circulating around one player. It seemed like Harry Shipp was pretty quiet for most of the night

The biggest thing from a game plan point of view, Cocis and Polster [are] kind of two guys that protect in the middle, and Shipp and Maloney had the free reign to kind of run all over the place. It makes them hard to deal with because Harry will pop up on the left hand side of the field, the right hand side, he’s everywhere. We did a good job; we talked about it not being a one-man job. It’s a communication thing. I thought BC and Michael Lahoud centrally were excellent in clogging the middle. Anytime they got any rhythm going we were able to get a piece of something and break it up. Obviously, we knew the speed threat Accam possesses, he can really run. I was actually shocked that a couple of our guys ran with him; a couple times Ray Gaddis ran with him and Michael Lahoud kept up with him. But, he’s a special player, you can’t teach the speed he has. Unfortunate for them Gilberto goes out a little early — we catch a little bit of a break there — but, again, you look to who they bring in, they bring in quality. They had a lot of athletes; we knew the forwards would look to get in behind. They sat back a little bit and looked to counter us with some long balls, and our guys did a good job of executing, just being hard to play through the whole time. But, yeah, the biggest thing was the kind of freedom that Harry gets, he’s a key to their game. He’s a young player and in these big games like this I am sure he learns a lot, as well. He’s got a great future ahead of him.

On John McCarthy facing only two shots, and getting two clean sheets in a row, and what that does for his confidence

They had two shots, they had the one at the near post, which John saves, and the bicycle at the end where he doesn’t make great contact. John makes a good save though. That’s the hardest thing about a goalkeeper, especially a young goalkeeper, you have to be tuned in and when you are called upon — it could be only for one moment — and you have to come up big, and John did. Again, he’s a young goalkeeper that’s confident right now, he’s done great in this run, and I’m very happy for him. There’s still one game left that he’ll want even more. Again, I did start to think about extra time and is it going to go to PKs, and he, obviously,thrives in that situation. But, I’m happy for John.

Defensively, we were very good. If you only give up two shots on goal, you like your odds, especially at home. I thought we created a lot on the night, too. I thought our offensive was good the first half. The first twenty minutes, two really good chances from inside the 12 yards that, on another day, maybe we could finish and the game’s a little easier, but we like to make it tough.

On Barnetta playing on the wing, appearing more comfortable centrally

I’ve talked to Tranquillo a lot about that and when we wanted to bring him here it was more as a central player. I thought the game tonight needed something a little different match up wise with Palmer out there, a fast aggressive guy that wants to get forward.  Also, we shifted Seba to the right so that Joevin Jones — who’s a very good young player also — we wanted to prevent him from getting forward. So, having those two, Barnetta and Seba having a little higher work rate we will call it than Chaco defensively, it was good to have them out there to do the dirty running. But, I also wanted him to have interchange with Chaco, just ’cause I think that can become very difficult for teams to deal with. You can see the amount of times where Palmer doesn’t know whether to step in to deal with Barnetta — and Fabi would occasionally overlap, and Chaco would make a diagonal run in there. So, giving defenders more than one thing to deal with is the goal, and I think Barnetta with his brain and his soccer IQ can kind of do that. So, to come inside and make those center backs make decisions and have those interchange with Chaco, and even Seba sometimes, coming inside. Barnetta is comfortable on the ball. He’s a soccer player, he can play anywhere, and I thought tonight we needed him in a wider spot; he was great and responsive for it. It’s a shame that one that he hit got blocked, I think it would have been interesting to see if that got on goal because he smacked that pretty good, but a good night for him. You have to remember too, he’s in his, literally, you know, this is a week-and-a-half of preseason basically he’s in, so fitness wise it’s going to come. But for him to get thrown out there 60+ minutes again, he held up well.

On having so much possession do you have to tell them to shoot more and is Seba a player that is willing to take the direct approach at goal

I do not know if they are going to credit that as a goal from outside the box, I think it was right on the line, but we’re not a team that scores a lot from outside the box. If you go back even to last year, I think we had two goals from outside the box. Yeah, you do have to find that balance of when to shoot, when to pass. I’m glad, obviously, Seba took the initiative and decided to take a hit there. I thought in the first half we were a little in-between, you know: when to shoot, when to pass. Things were getting blocked or deflected and we weren’t quick pulling the trigger. I think about even the one late where Seba plays Chaco in over the top and he’s running to the near post, and it’s almost like a “should I shoot, should I cut this back” and by then someone slid and blocks. So, yeah, it’s finding the right decisions, again, in front of goal is the key. It’s very difficult, it’s the hardest thing to do is, obviously, score. But, we need to get a little sharper in front of goal. I think tonight we could have had three or four goals.

On choosing Lahoud to play

Lahoud, if you go back to the Orlando game, for him in his first game to push 75 minutes and do the job he did on Kaka, who’s pretty good — he did a good job cutting him out, and him and Brian have a good understanding of each other. I thought that they would want to be a team that would counter attack us, so to have two true guys in there that would at least recognize defensively if one was up the other would at least be home was important. Zach I think learned a ton in the New York game and I thought gave a really good 60 minutes in a real high tempo game where he was the holding guy, but with Michael being healthy he gives you a little more defense first mindset. Again, I like to be attack minded at home, but I did not want to mess too much with the good thing that Brian and [Lahoud] did in getting the shutout. It was a close decision, and we’ll have to look at again. It is a quick turn around now [to] play them again. Michael’ll be pretty gassed, I’d imagine, after two long games. Michael was really good tonight. He asked to come out actually, he came over at the 70th minute and asked me to come out and I said, “You’re not coming out,” so that was how that went [laughs]. And then, towards the end, I thought about putting Warren in but, again, it’s a tough spot to get thrown into. So, we wound up going with Michael, and he did a heck of a job to push through 90 minutes.

On making only one sub: Was that because you were happy with the group that was out there?

Exactly, yeah, you nailed it. They played like men. I wanted them to finish the game like men. I asked Chaco — Michael Lahoud asked to come out but I told him he wasn’t; that was my decision and I would have to live with that. But it’s just a game where you didn’t want to change a lot because we seemed — I hate saying comfortable comfortable — but it seemed comfortable defensively. Listen, we thought about throwing Fernando up top and bumping CJ out wide but, if you tinker too much — sometimes the best sub is no sub. And, I know we’ve gotten some wrong this year, we’ve gotten some right, and tonight we got it right, and I thought the guys did a heck of a job. They’re gutsy, man. Again, a lot of guys could have bailed out by now because it’s been a heck of a tough season, but the fans stuck with us, and the players rewarded them tonight.

Michael Lahoud

On returning to a Cup final for a second straight year

It feels awesome. It was a total team effort. It’s something that we’ve been working really hard for. The season’s gone so many different ways, ups and downs, but I really think we’re coming together at the right time.

On the team’s Open Cup success despite being so low in the league table

It shows character in the team since I’ve been here. I don’t know whether it’s being here in Philly, but we’re guys that are full of character. For Mo to come back not feeling 100% and put in the performance he put in, you’ve seen guys like Tranquillo, and CJ pulling his own weight with a bum knee. We really want this one and I think we’re putting in the right work to get there.

On the conversation between he and Jim in which he asked to be subbed out

It was very short, to the point, and no was the answer (laughs). It was the longest I’ve played in a couple of months so this is kind of pushing the limits for me but he just asked me if I wanted it and the answer of course was yes and he said to go back out there and do the job.

On his partnership with Brian Carroll

Brian and I know each other pretty well from playing together whenever we’ve had time to, so we know to share the load and it’s pretty simple playing with him. He makes it easy, he’s a leader, he’s a veteran, and the communication between us, Mo, and Richie was very good. We figured if we did our jobs it would help everyone behind us have more effective games.

On the pride he takes in earning a clean sheet

It’s a huge sense of pride. The thing that I’m learning in that position is that the more we do our jobs, the more it frees up the likes of CJ, Chaco, Seba, and Tranquillo to do what they do best and that was on display tonight. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get the goal earlier but we were very dangerous throughout the match and it was only a matter of time before we got the winner.

CJ Sapong

On attempting the backheel flick

I saw it kind of late, I should have anticipated Seba winning the ball. It looked like he wasn’t going to get to it but his slide tackle put a great ball across and if I’m just a little bit more alert it’s an easy tap in, but it got a little bit behind me and last minute I tried the flick off. Obviously it didn’t work but you’ve just got to keep going and get the next one.

Sebastien Le Toux

On earning a spot in the Open Cup final

It’s a great feeling. Only one more to go and we will have a trophy. It’s a good feeling right now but we have one more game to win.

On fighting their way back to this point after a tough loss last year

We know we’re in a tough season right now, not where we want to be, and the Open Cup is a way to win a trophy in the US where there’s just two trophies to win. So if we can win one of them we’ll be happy to get one for our fans and for this club. It’s one step closer to getting it and last year we were very close and it left a bad taste in our mouths so we want to win it this year. It’s good to be back to the final but there’s still one more to win.

On his goal

It was a bit lucky with how the clearance fell to BC and BC played me in and, I don’t think he meant to do that, and the ball just went to me. I kind of touched the ball through the legs of one defender, which was very lucky again, and I just took another touch and saw an opening (at the near post). It went to my left, which is not my best foot, but I took a crack at it and luckily it went in. The keeper was great all night. He saved lots of big shots from us but on mine, which is not the prettiest, one went in. I’m going to take it and I’m just happy that we won tonight.

On setting the record as the scoring leader in the modern era of the Open Cup

I mean I was very lucky in my time with Seattle and now with Philly. Like I say it’s a possibility to win a trophy and when you play soccer you want to win a trophy. This competition is game after game and I always try to be my best. I’m just happy we won and to score the winning goal makes it even better.

On earning a trophy for a team that he helped form

I don’t even know what it’s going to be. For the first time you kind of make your story and that’s what we want to do. We want to be the first ones to win a trophy for this team and I think when we look back at our careers and the story of this club we can say hey we were the first ones to win a trophy. I think it’s big for our history and a huge reward for the fans, employees and all the people who are invested in this franchise who want to bring soccer in Philadelphia. It just kind of makes people happy and it’s what we want as players to have everybody behind you and I hope we will bring even more enthusiasm in this sport and lots of people will come back to PPL Park to support the team.

Richie Marquez

On playing Chicago twice in a week and what he expects from them this weekend

I’m expecting revenge after this loss. They’re going to want to stick it to us in the league but if we keep doing what we’re doing we should be fine.

On the defense keeping two clean sheets in a row

It’s unity, we’re working together as one and if we keep doing that I don’t see any team breaking us down.

More on what he expects from Chicago coming up

Like I said, I think they’re going to come back with some anger and it’s going to make for a better game, especially if we beat them twice.

On Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud in midfield

They work together and protect the back four pretty well. When we communicate with them they listen and they’re good at giving directions right back, so it’s been really good having them.

John McCarthy

 On Kennedy Igboananike’s bicycle kick

He was facing the other way and as soon as he started to lean I set my feet and hoped that I saved it. It was a well struck shot, I thought, and I just did what I could to keep it out.

On the defensive effort

It was great. I think I might have saved one shot in the first half, one in the second and that was pretty much it. I’ll never complain about that in a game ever. So that’s always great, to boost the team especially. The team defense got another shutout which was great as well. We did a great job from front to back as a team tonight.

On getting two clean sheets in a row

It’s good, definitely a good confident booster that will boost everything. So we’ve got to keep on going. No one’s going to complain about a shutout and especially with how we played tonight it’s even better.

On his first final coming up

It’s pretty cool. It’s an opportunity to win a trophy. We won one in the preseason so to be able to win one again would be really cool. There’s going to be a lot on the line for this game and it’s going to be a fun one to play in.


  1. So when Lahoud said CJ was pulling his weight with a bum kneee, where did CJ’s bum knee come from? Did I miss something somewhere? When did this happen?

    • Zizouisgod says:

      He went down in the 2nd half when defending a corner in our box. Curtin actually had sent someone down to the subs which I had assumed would be Aristigueta, but before that happened, CJ popped back up.

  2. el pachyderm says:

    Sebastian Le Toux as Darth Victorious.

  3. pragmatist says:

    We’ve discussed this in similar terms before, but it’s amazing to me to hear Curtin’s pressers. He is acutely aware of the shortcomings of both the team and his managerial abilities.
    “It is good to get the goal late and just have to hang on for a brief period of time because, obviously, protecting leads hasn’t been our strength this year.”
    – There’s no sugarcoating. He knows that they collapse.
    “sometimes the best sub is no sub. And, I know we’ve gotten some wrong this year, we’ve gotten some right, and tonight we got it right..”
    – He admits that he doesn’t have a grasp on subs for every game.
    I’m sure people will read this and say, “He’s obviously not qualified or ready for the job.” I look at it and see a guy who is completely devoid of the arrogance of his boss and is trying to become better at his job.
    I hope to God they win this Cup, not just for the fans (because do we really want/deserve a win like this), but for Jim. This will force them to give him another year, and that is good for everyone. Stop the managerial/player turnover and give the guy a solid and steady roster. There is talent here, and there should be even more coming in during the offseason.

    Good job, guys! Keep it up!

    • el pachyderm says:

      It is impossible to assess what kind of manager he is or is going to be at this point and we are not Manchester United…I have my reservations about the whole thing but patience is the play with this one for sure.
      An Open Cup win would certainly be helpful cause our talent alone is not likely going to be enough to win against SKC…and a well devised game plan is going to be important.

      • I think the only thing you can say about Jim right at the moment is that he’s inexperienced. I also think changing coaches is a bad idea, for now.

      • You’re both correct. But the point I’m making is that he is self-aware. For a manager early in his career, that is a very positive trait. My hope is that he can use that awareness to lead to great improvements in his job. And hopefully for us…

      • Just to be clear, I wasn’t disagreeing with you. I hope Jim does improve and get better. I hope he’s here when he does, and that the Union benefit from it. But I’m not so sure being self-aware is beneficial. It may be, I just can’t say for sure.

      • Yep… I was in agreement and just riffing off your point pragmatist.

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